This is a section of a talk I gave at the Royal Academy of Music for music students
One of the sections was centered around some specific information concerning how simple it is to produce and circulate a debut recording. These days, a record deal maybe the last thing you need as a musician!!
One student asked if they should send a huge dossier of references, biographies, programmes and recordings to prospective venues/employers. Err.. nope! A CD with a handwritten note, nicely designed, personally directed is much better, especially if solicited via an initial email. The former package would in all likelihood end up in a recycling bin.
Harsh maybe.. but true!
Here are some simple steps to releasing tracks online and (even) getting income through sales (though this may not be the primary aim at this stage). You want people to hear you, join you, and get excited about what you produce next (and hopefully turn up in droves to your next recital).
Getting it out there…
Let’s assume you’ve already recorded a really well thought-through programme.
The obvious place to start a web presence is myspace, but it seems (at best) an inelegant way to present yourself as an artist, especially when there are so many other free hosted sites with beautiful templates out there. I have a myspace page, but its primary purpose is to redirect traffic to my own sites!
I love WordPress (where you’re reading this). It’s free – I can place a track like this
by entering a piece of simple code, and it looks professional. It’s designed as a piece of blogging software, but rather than using it purely as an online diary, I find it is a great place to host your biography and showreel. Also, it’s a great place to engage in regular chats with people who might like what you do.
The more people comment and link to you, the higher you page goes in Google’s rankings, so make sure it’s appealing!!
You can get a WordPress blog here – highly recommended.
A different way of grouping/ hosting your music for free is presented by SoundCloud. What is neat about this is the way people can place comments along the timeline, and even better, anyone (if you like) can stream it to their own blog/site. Here’s a recent piece of mine which is being streamed from the SoundCloud website.
Listeners can add comments at specific points in the track – you can see them by hovering over the pictures. I use SoundCloud to determine whether a track has ‘legs’ or not. It’s very meritocratic – if something’s good – it’ll get lots of plays!
Now, if you’re feeling generous, you can make the tracks downloadable (although I would tag them in iTunes first so the mp3 has your web address in its code).
This track is a download track – again, being streamed via a simple bit of code from SoundCloud:
The downwards arrow on the right is a download link. Here’s a site where someone’s placed a block of my tracks leading to free downloads.
A well-established streaming music service is lastfm.com. This is a curious amalgam of fansite and radio station. Personally I find it a bit disjointed, and also it concerns me that unreleased tracks often appear there from dubious sources. There are tracks of mine on there that I’ve never released!
A completely different approach to new music streaming and downloads can be found at thesixtyone.com.
This is a really hard site to describe as it is as much about gameplay as it is about streaming music. There are two types of (free) account. Artists or Listeners. The Listeners get a higher ranking depending upon how they scout for new songs that the Artists place on there. They give ‘hearts’ to tracks they like, a little like buying shares in a stock that looks like it’s going to perform well.
Frankly, no-one really knows how it works but it’s a superb place to find new music in a quirky and vibrant community.
Also, as with SoundCloud, you can tell pretty quickly if a track has merit as it will get voted onto the front page!
Players also give ‘tips’ which I hadn’t realized translate into Paypal dollars.
From my page here, I have enough for two cappuccinos already… hurrah!
Setting up a label and generating paid downloads
Setting up a label appears at first to be an onerous and difficult task. This certainly used to be the case, when there was a baffling array of requirements,; barcodes, encoding, registration and so forth. This is no longer the case thanks to intermediary companies that have sprung up to help us confused and frustrated independent players and composers.
CDBaby was established by the very brilliant Derek Sivers (whose blog is essential reading). They distribute to a huge number of digital outlets, and have excellent accounting procedures for small labels. They started as a physical distributor of CDs but seem to have made a smooth transition to digital marketing. You can read about joining here.
One of the most impressive of these new services is Ditto Music.
They have created a brilliant service where the tasks of creating a label for your releases is streamlined and organized for a one-off fee. They also take 0% of your royalties when tracks are sold online, and they can distribute to 700 digital outlets. The real icing on the cake is that they have created a means by which independent musicians can get their tracks loaded onto Spotify, and iTunes.
There’s a widely held belief that as an independent artist, getting your tracks onto Spotify and iTunes is nigh on impossible unless you’re with a major label. This is happily untrue as discussed above. Spotify is an exciting way of streaming (and now temporarily downloading) tracks which has begun a seamless integration with phones and mp3 players.
Spotify are themselves trying to approach smaller, independent labels, and you can register interest as a future partner here.
I’m going to write about physical CD production, as well as other merchandise… But I need a big mug of coffee first! Let me know if this is useful…